Norfolk councillor happy to represent voters from Rusthall home

    Another week and another twist in the tale about absent councillors.

    Two weeks ago we told the story about Tunbridge Wells Councillor Peter Bulman leaving town for Norfolk while still claiming £5,500 allowances a year.

    This week we reveal that North Norfolk Councillor Doug Smith (above left) has moved to Tunbridge Wells while also still claiming allowances worth more than £5,000 a year.

    Now living in Rusthall, the councillor moved 170 miles from the Sheringham ward he was elected to represent with his wife in August to be nearer his grandchildren.

    Having previously worked in a Southborough printing firm and been a member of Southborough Town Council, he now finds himself with a role on Rusthall Parish Council, which he says he accepted in July.

    “It was not always our intention to move back,” he said. “But I have lived here most of my life and it was when I retired we moved to North Norfolk.

    “I have been co-opted into Rusthall Parish Council, having been persuaded to put my name forward in July. Because I am retired I have the time to do both jobs. I have no regrets at all.”

    The councillor is still claiming an allowance of £5,050 a year but said he plans to step down in the New Year.

    Councillor Smith, who recently left the Norfolk council’s Conservative group, said he is still able to answer queries by phone and email.

    “I travel back up by train around twice a month,” he said.

    “I feel there are still some important issues that are being dealt with in Norfolk but I think (stepping down) will give someone else a chance to get their feet under the table in the district council.”

    When asked if he would consider standing to become a member of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, he said: “I have not considered it, but who knows.”

    And on whether he could simply swap jobs with Councillor Bulman, he said: “I think that is quite hilarious, I would like to meet up half way and have a conversation!

    “I was very interested to hear about this man, it is almost a mirror image.

    “Legally though it would be impossible.”

    Councillor Smith’s move south attracted criticism from North Norfolk Council’s Tory leader Tom Fitzpatrick who reportedly asked him to leave the group.

    Councillor Bulman represents Park ward on the borough council and said he would leave his role before he is due for re-election in 2020, but did not confirm when.